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She stares at me, looking as if she is trying to read my mind...
It is amazing how pets are able to connect with their owners in their own special way. We all know quite well that dogs wag their tails when they are content; stick their tongues out while panting heavily when they are hot, and so on. But when Sheila talks to me, it is something completely different.
It did not matter then, that she was a dirty, wet, smelly tangle of fur in that frosty bush in my backyard last winter. It did not matter then, that I was severely allergic to animal fur, and that I was linonophobic. It did not matter then, that it was one of the coldest recorded winters and frostbite was the number one killer then. Nothing mattered then. The only thing that mattered, was that something inside of me wants to pick that shivering object up. Actually, it was not just something, it was everything.
The mess of silver and copper fur shivered wildly, like an epileptic person with a seizure. I could feel its tiny paws shuffling under its cold body, desperate to keep its limbs warm. My ears felt like they were frozen, and if it were not for my wool cap, it could have fallen right off. I partially unzipped my jacket, and slipped my hand and the ball of fur in, then closed the jacket as tight as I could with my other hand.
Like I said, I was deathly afraid of people, especially crowds. But I knew I had to do this. It needs the veterinarian downtown. I took a peek at the ball of fur, its head has come out from under its body, and it turned out to be a puppy, looking as if it is only a week old. I took a deep breath, the icy air filling my lungs, and ran along the street I had sworn to never take.
I pushed open the heavy glass door of the office, and a gush of warm air stroked my cold cheeks. Suddenly, something hit me. No, not literally, but it startled me just as much. The room was full of people and their pets. There was this woman stroking and calming her Persian cat, who looked up at me. I looked away, ears burning, heart racing. I walk up to the receptionist, who wore a plastic smile on her face and said: "How may I help you, miss?"
The room felt cold again. "I... uh..."
The panic attack was back.
The receptionist looked at me like I was about to faint. To be honest, I did feel a little dizzy. Breathe, Chris, breathe.
I took a deep, satisfying breath and held out the puppy. It looked like it was sleeping, its sides swelling and shrinking. The receptionist stood up immediately and held her hand out for the puppy. I placed its fragile little body on her soft but long hands, and watched her hurry off to get a blanket to wrap the puppy up.
"She will be fine," said the vet. "It was a good thing you got her here sooner. She could have died of frostbite if she was to be out there in the cold any longer."
I looked at the puppy and stroked its now clean, soft fur. "She is warm again..." I spat out.
The vet looked at my trembling fingers and said: "Are you alright?" I was startled. She is talking to you, Chris!
"I, uh, am fine, th... thank you." Was what I managed to say.
I took the puppy home that day. My sister was surprised at the sight of the puppy, cradled in my arms, and me, not wheezing violently. "What... where did you get that, Chris?"
My sister was the only person that I was not afraid of. She.is the only other human being that understands my condition. She is also the only family I have.
It has been a year and six months since that shivering ball of fur arrived at our little apartment near the golden beach. During this one year and six months, Sheila changed me. She added a sparkle in my eyes and a charm to my smile, my sister would say. Since I had to go to the vet every other month to grab some dog food and get Sheila the vaccination she needs, I had to force myself out of my shell and gotten rid of my phobia in a few months.
I had changed Sheila, too. She had grown a whole lot of fur, and is now a lovely, beautiful typical grown Siberian Husky. She seems to understand my fears, words and touch. She is active and healthy, thanks to the walks in the park and the trips to the refreshing beach. She is gentle and loving, and is the only one who has become my best friend despite my fearful past.
We would sit on the beach, watching the people jog by, and enjoying each other's presence. I would sink my feet into the sand, and she would plop down next to me, her snout placed close to my hand. Then I would stroke her soft silver and copper fur, as the warm summer wind blows through my hair and her fur.